We've had one week off in Oita ahead of the quarter-finals, and two of our broadcast production teams have already gone home – the Frenchies and the South Africans. I'm now joined by former Wales and Lions backrower Eddie Butler as our lead commentator for the two quarters in Oita; with our Aussie boy Sean Maloney covering the games in Tokyo with Karl Te Nana and deserting us.
Eddie tells us that the three British commentators, including himself and sevens star Rob Vickerman, were with the French team who constantly smoked, joked, and yelled at them "Brexit boys". The Frenchies apparently organised a goodbye party in the hotel conference room which went from 8pm to 8am and finished with a 30-person conga around the hotel. Sounds great!
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Andrew Mehrtens is still with me and recently introduced us to his French journalist mate Sebastian Viguie who also smoked like a train, told loads of fantastic tales about all the rugby dudes he knows and dragged off half of our dinner party to a karaoke bar to sing French classics.
One of those stories includes a drinking game that a group of high-profile former rugby internationals participate in including England's Mike Tindall, Wales Jonathan Davies, Ireland's Keith Wood and Brian O'Driscoll, South Africa's Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez and Bryan Habana, and All Blacks Zinzan Brooke and Mehrts.
It all started after a golf game and one person has to stand up and say, "one", the next stands up and says, "two", and so on until you get to 10. But if you stand up at the same time as someone else and say the same number you have to drink.
They've been playing it via WhatsApp for the past year, sending videos to the group. There have been drinks from superyachts, drinks from bedrooms, drinks from the shower, and the classic from Tindall, a drink from Buckingham Palace.
Now that sounds rather juvenile from a bunch of fully-grown blokes, but I think that most of us revert to teenagers when we are on these trips - there is so much downtime.
We end up eating out every night - octopus balls (takoyaki) was my latest. So good.
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The Japanese can also pull out a great wagyu steak – so much so there is a farm near Mount Fuji where they feed the cows sake and beer and massage them every day to make the meat more tender.
What else? Go to more local hangouts. The one we were at in Osaka was crazy. It was an English pub, but the locals go there to meet foreigners. I'm not joking when I say that every one of our broadcast team was "touched" at least half a dozen times by mainly the young men. It was a Japanese sandwich with a bit of Aussie and Kiwi in the middle.
Meanwhile, the mud has started to fly via the media in an attempt to upset the teams ahead of the quarter-finals.
English media have had a go at the Aussies' behaviour in their early week press conference, French media are criticising Warren Gatland for putting his first-five Dan Bigger's life at risk due to his previous concussions, and Irish media are calling the All Blacks cheats (again).
That's emphasised by the fact the All Blacks have got the perfect referee for them - a Welshman that has the lowest penalty count in the competition and lets the game flow.
And of course, the red card issue is still very much a talking point.
This World Cup has been very difficult to commentate when it comes to the interpretation being used around what constitutes a yellow card or red card for high tackles because having been hired by World Rugby we have to support where they are heading with the stricter rulings.
With seven red cards having been dished – the previous highest was four in 1995 and 1999 – teams who have players whose tackling technique isn't 100 per cent perfect are in the gun.
Wayne Barnes, every Kiwi's favourite ref in 2007, has the highly anticipated Japan v South Africa game. I had a good yarn to him in the weekend on what he thinks, and I've had another look at the rulebook to see if I can make sense around it all.
The issue is that the rule around whether a high tackle is a red or yellow is that it is up to interpretation around whether the referee believes there was a high or low degree of danger.
There are of course mitigating factors that can be considered when deciding between yellow and red, such as if the tackler attempts to get lower to make a legitimate tackle. However, this World Cup, whether the person being tackled is also low, which causes the head contact in the tackle, seems to be ignored in cases. Or if a tackler can't change direction at all as they were already in motion, and connects high, they are still getting done. For instance, Bundee Aki for Ireland.
Barnes says that the players are telling the refs it doesn't make sense to red card willy nilly, because you can not physically change where you are already heading. He agrees. But it takes some balls from a referee to NOT follow the tide and dish out the cards like the others are doing. Let's watch what he does in his game.
I totally back having a safer game for kids to play, and the push from World Rugby to get harder on this area is all designed around safety.
But rugby is a contact sport, you will get hit, your head will get hit. You can't actually take that out of the game at this level.
I coach the College Rifles boys under 11, and we are all about body position and technique, Auckland Rugby has great courses and support for coaches around this also, but going big on this at a Rugby World Cup seems to be the wrong place to suddenly change.
Finally, I'm commentating on the Australia v England game, and the Wales against France clash this weekend in Oita.
I'm so looking forward to whether or not the Wallabies can turn it on, pull themselves together, and upset England - who everyone else in the world wants to lose.
But I don't think they will.
The framework that Eddie Jones has put around his team includes experienced World Cup players, at least five world-class players in the spine of the team, and a variation of gameplay including an ability to go wide, using massive forwards to get over the gain line. It will be too tough for Australia who are tending to play a game which is more instinctive and free-flowing.
Goodness knows which French team turn up against Wales, who have been very good with their structure and patience during this World Cup. Strangely the French have been given three days off in the lead up to this one.
I'm picking Wales for that one.
South Africa will be favourites against Japan despite the incredible speed Japan plays, and the All Blacks are playing the most conservative team here in Ireland. New Zealand have to win that just to prove, once again, that rugby is a game that needs variety in attack as well as defence.